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Gen Z Slang & UX Writing

Oh god, I’m old, aren’t I?

I officially can’t keep up anymore. No cap, I have a tentative grasp on some basics. I can stan the slang. But it’s an odd feeling, not understanding modern terminology. It’s like I’m being ghosted by the latest trends.

(I feel the need to italicize, like I’m using French in a pretentious novel or something. It’s like a whole other language.)

Don’t worry, I’m not recommending that we start using Gen Z slang in microcopy. Bffr.

But there really are lessons we can learn from this uncomfortable feeling. Just…let me cook.


In microcopy, we talk a lot about “reaching the user where they’re at.” That doesn’t mean going off the rails and writing how we would speak if we were a decade younger. Even the younger generations use different words in a professional setting.

“But my app has a fun voice,” you say. Cool. But is it authentic? Because if you’re not genuinely a Zoomer tweeting (X-ing?) on your way to the office with an iced latte, chances are that any attempt to sound like one will be super cringe.

Not to be a Karen, but UX-ers tend to do this in less obvious ways. We try to sound smart, or clever, or funny, when really all we need to aim for is being understood.

Trying to be cool or different rarely gets you anywhere. It’s authenticity that matters. Relevancy. Good copy doesn’t live rent-free in our users’ heads; it goes unnoticed. It says what it needs to say, when it needs to say it, and doesn’t simp for attention.

Effective copy will only pass the vibe-check if it serves a purpose.


Beyond not trying to be something we’re not, we can take another lesson from linguistic changes: not pretending to understand something that we don’t.

Do you know how frustrating it is to listen to someone explain something that they clearly know nothing about? To read a subtitle written by someone who doesn’t know what the resulting action will be? Or to read a help article written by someone who doesn’t actually understand the feature? It’s givingdesperation.

Stick to what you know. Actually, scratch that — learn what you need to know. Don’t understand the feature you’re working on? Figure it out. Don’t know which terms your users are familiar with? Ask.


I know it doesn’t seem like it — it certainly doesn’t to me — but slang is actually pretty simple. Getting the ick comes from feeling icky about something. Gatekeeping comes from the act of physically barring others from entry.

It may sound delulu, but we can learn something from the evolution of slang. It’s natural, not forced. The strings connecting a term to its original origins are usually easily followed.

If good slang is simple slang, good copy is simple copy.

Got it? Good.

Tea. Spilled.


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